Long ago, in the 1850s when cotton was king, those glorious labor-intensive days, Lehman Brothers established itself as brokers of that cotton. The American south was one of the richest places in the world, and Lehman made a fortune. 

Lehman’s storied history became just that today: history, as one of Wall Street’s giants bit the dust — the greatest bankruptcy in the history of the United States — another casualty of the great credit crisis of 2008. Lehman’s got company: The biggest stock brokerage firm in the world, Merrill Lynch, dumped in a fire sale; AIG, the largest insurance company in the world, scrambling for cash. 

The insurance that guarantees the commitments of these giant financial institutions – called Credit Default Swaps – now equals $62 trillion dollars. That approaches 5 times the annual gross domestic product of  the United States.  The cost to insure these obligations has doubled in six months, adding further pressure to an economy crippled by speculation, fraud, and gouging. The answer: nationalization of credit markets. Those words are echoing around the world today as capitalists are crying out for help in the form of government intervention and aid.

Ironically, government intervention is what was needed all along to keep adequate reserves up and speculation under control. Just ask Sarah Palin, who had this take today on the US financial debacle:

"Washington has been asleep at the switch. John McCain and I are going to put an end to the mismanagement and abuses in Washington and on Wall Street  that have resulted in this financial crisis."   Last I checked the GOP weren’t asleep at the switch, they were actively deregulating oversight. 

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders, author, and host of RadioNation on Air America Radio, has built a reputation for courageous investigative journalism coupled with compassion and a sense of humor. In writing her last book, Blue Grit, she traveled the country reporting on grassroots success stories and broadcast live to over 150 radio stations from community centers in places including Helena, Salt Lake City, New Orleans, Miami, Las Vegas, and Milwaukee. In her television appearances (Lou Dobbs, Larry King Live,) on radio and in her many books (including Bushwomen: Tales of a Cynical Species) and articles (The Nation and others,) Flanders calls for a new politics of fairness, equality and citizen action. Articulating the human dimension of American communities in trouble, her programs have become destinations for those seeking the skills and the will to make a difference. Flanders is a regular contributor to the Nation Magazine and CNN. Before joining Air America, where she was part of the original lineup, and hosted “The Laura Flanders Show” for three years, Flanders was the founding host of the award-winning “Your Call” weekday mornings on public radio, KALW in the Bay Area and CounterSpin, the radio show of the mediawatch group, FAIR.